Monteverde Cloud Forest: A Guide to Costa Rica's Wildlife Paradise

For wildlife lovers, there’s no finer place to be than Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica
For wildlife lovers, there’s no finer place to be than Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica | © Bernard / imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Celia Topping
3 September 2021

Lush jungle, treetop walkways and ethereal mist are all waiting in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica. This biological preserve is home to jaguars, hummingbirds and capuchin monkeys, so book a guided tour, or explore on your own.

Why visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve?

Established in 1972, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve boasts no less than six ecosystems, with an estimated 100 species of mammal, 490 species of butterfly and 400 species of bird, and a total of 2,500 species of flora and fauna. Many endemic species aren’t found anywhere else on earth, such as the colourful fiery-throated hummingbird and the oddly named highland fringe-limbed treefrog. For wildlife lovers, there’s no finer place to be.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve boasts no less than six ecosystems | © adrian hepworth / Alamy Stock Photo

What is a cloud forest?

Shrouded in warm mist, it’s not difficult to see how cloud forests get their name. It feels as if the sky has descended into the forest; the clouds condense onto the lush foliage and drip onto the plants below, like a natural terrarium. The moist warmth of the forest encourages unparalleled biodiversity and the water produced from the slow drip-drip of the plants is invaluable to neighbouring villages as a water supply.

Which animals can be found in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve?

The reserve is one of the few remaining habitats where you can find all six species of the cat family – jaguars, ocelots, pumas, oncillas, margays and jaguarundis. We highly recommend you join a guided tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve to navigate your way through this wildlife wonderland. This way, you’re supporting local communities and getting the best possible experience in this tropical paradise.

For bird spotters, getting up early for a dawn tour is a must. Hundreds of rare birds call the reserve home, including the endangered three-wattled bellbird with its loud “bong” of a call and the resplendent quetzal with its ostentatious red-and-green plumage. There are no less than 30 types of hummingbird to find, and your guide will be able to take you to just the right place for the best chance to spot them.

And it’s not just birds you can spot here. Howler, spider and capuchin monkeys swing through the dense foliage, and cute little kinkajous, olingos and two-toed sloths are just some of the tree-dwelling creatures you can tick off your list.

Olingos are among the tree-dwelling creatures you can spot here | © Michael & Patricia Fogden / Minden Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo

How to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Only 450 people are allowed inside the reserve each day, and only 250 at any one time, so make sure you book ahead.

While in the forest, we recommend you wear lightweight long trousers; make sure to pack a raincoat and under-layers. Hiking boots are best for traversing the often wet, slippery terrain. Keep your flip-flops for the hotel pool!

You can discover the forest in a number of ways, from hiking on trails, canopy walkways and vertigo-inducing rope bridges, to horse riding through the magical mist. More adventurous travellers can fly through the treetops on a network of zip wires.

It’s predicted that the climate crisis could have a devastating effect on the cloud forests of Costa Rica. Rising temperatures will lead to the forests’ natural cycles changing, and possibly even drying up completely. Supporting conservation efforts is paramount to the survival of these ecosystems. Using local guides and putting the environment first is vital, both at home and abroad.

Where to stay in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Monteverde Lodge and Gardens

Monteverde Lodge and Gardens
Courtesy of Monteverde Lodge and Gardens / Expedia
Wildlife lovers should book the Monteverde Lodge and Gardens, as the local naturalist guides are some of the most knowledgeable around. Their infectious enthusiasm will ensure your stay at this luxurious private cloud forest reserve is unforgettable. All rooms feature panoramic forest views and determined sustainability is key to the lodge’s success.

Los Pinos Cabins and Gardens

Los Pinos Cabins and Gardens
Courtesy of Los Pinos Cabins and Gardens / Expedia
Alternatively, for a more local experience, stay at Los Pinos Cabins and Gardens. The family here have Monteverde running through their veins. They offer a rustic retreat in the heart of the cloud forest. Harvest your own vegetables from their hydroponic garden and sit among the treetops while you eat, spotting the monkeys wandering through the grounds.

Hotel Fonda Vela

Hotel Fonda Vela
Courtesy of Hotel Fonda Vela / Expedia
If you’d like a little more luxury, opt for the elegant Hotel Fonda Vela. It’s the perfect base for exploring the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Large picture windows offer a unrivalled view of the lush, green forest and a heated pool is a welcome way to unwind after a day of adventures in the jungle.

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